Book review – Killing Hope, by William Blum

History was my favorite subject in school. Our teacher used to call it “his story” – story of a person. I was always spellbound hearing those stories and believing in everything our teacher used to tell us.

Growing up into an adult and with the exposure of reading multiple books on historical subjects, a different perspective slowly took control. Contrary to what my school teacher said, the “his” in History is not the subject we are reading about but it actually is the author who is creating a view on the subject. A view we all read and tend to believe. History is the story of the subject, as told by the author.

Well, reading this book, “Killing Hope : US Military and CIA interventions since World War II” is like vindicating this belief. William Blum, the author, takes us into a world where everything that is wrong is due to US Presidents, their close aides, CIA and US Military. The innocent people are US Senators, few world media outlets, all foreign governments and all foreign citizens.

Why you should read this book

William Blum gives a superb account of all interventions made by US government between 1950 and 1990. The book covers 55+ such instances and as a reader, you will be left shocked with the ease and extent to which US agencies have manipulated foreign governments. Next time you hear any unrest in one of these countries, it is easy to trace back to the root of problems that country is facing.

The author follows various events in chronological order which makes the entire book a good read. With each event given an average 6 page print space, the reading becomes easy and you will not feel dragged into micro level details. A brilliant effort by William Blum in putting these many articles together.

There are some really good paragraphs where the author touches upon the gruesomeness of US military operations. At one stage, he talks about low intensity conflicts (Palestine, Kashmir) and the really bloody ones (Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, South America). What converts a low intensity conflict into a major war is the blatant involvement of foreign powers.

And the stuff I did not like

There are few things in this book that disappoint me.

First, the book is about cold war era interventions. There are no details of any of the conflicts post 1993. While the version I read is a 2014 edition, it was disappointing to find out the entire them of the book is anti-communism driven initiatives of US agencies.

Second, the author does not do justice to most of the interventions. This makes the reading a highly unsatisfactory one since the coverage is limited to information the author can get.

Third, the narrative is totally one sided. The entire spectrum of US security agencies are depicted as one sided villains and everyone else as victims. For example, Saddam Hussein was instigated to attack Kuwait and hence he is not at fault – logic like this is used to support every other foreign regime. I detest authors who take such biased view on historical events and sadly, William Blum just does that.

Finally, the book is not based on real evidences. Of course, all the interventions by US agencies were covert operations and hence there will be not official evidences. But the author takes this to a different level by first quoting favorable and out of context statements by various individuals. And then creative a highly subjective, one sided and derogatory narrative.

What do I conclude on this book?

This is a great book if you want to make some hard hitting statements in a geo political debate. But if you are a history buff and looking for some serious insights into what is wrong with political establishments in various countries, this is not the book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s